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1. Paul Stastny, Vegas Golden Knights
With all of the talent in Vegas, and the fact that the Golden Knights have been able to add big names like Mark Stone more recently, it’s easy to forget that Vegas also bolstered its lineup with the addition of two-way gem Stastny. Especially since he hasn’t always been healthy since signing in Sin City.
Nights like Sunday make it pretty tough to forget about him.
Stastny scored two goals and two assists as the Golden Knights beat the Kings in Los Angeles, even with Taylor Swift’s banner covered up.
After going four games without a point, Stastny is heating up, as he had a goal against the Flames in Vegas’ last game.
2. Zach Aston-Reese, Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh went on an unlikely scoring tear this weekend, scoring 14 goals in 48 hours.
“ZAR” was arguably the biggest star of Sunday’s 7-2 drubbing of the Jets, as he scored two goals and one assist for three points, with one of his tallies coming shorthanded. Aston-Reese also had an assist on Saturday, so it was a strong weekend for the 25-year-old.
Sidney Crosby collected two assists, and Sam Lafferty scored two goals, including the game-winner. It was quite a collective effort, as you might expect when you generate that much offense.
3. Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks
All too often since 2018-19, the Sharks have been winning despite Jones.
The Flames generated a 33-20 shots on goal advantage against San Jose on Sunday, but Jones only yielded one goal.
Jones, 29, hadn’t just been on a three-game losing streak coming into this one. He had also allowed four goals in each of those losses. San Jose has to hope that Jones gained some confidence from this win, even if it’s going to be tough to ask him to make 32 out of 33 stops with much frequency.
(Then again … goalies, folks.)
Welcome back Patty
The Sharks are 2-0-0 since bringing Patrick Marleau back. To little shock, Marleau received a standing ovation on his return to San Jose as a Shark. He generated an assist, giving him three points in two games back with his longtime team.
Highlights of the Night
- The Sharks have won 683 games with Doug Wilson as GM, which is the 12th most of any GM in a single stint, via NHL PR.
- NHL PR points out that this is the fourth time the Penguins have scored 7+ goals on consecutive days, and the first time they’ve done it since 1986. The Penguins note that Kris Letang became the first defenseman in franchise history to reach 500 points.
PIT 7 – WPG 2
VGK 5 – LAK 2
SJS 3 – CGY 1
If someone told you that the Pittsburgh Penguins exploded for 14 goals in just two games on back-to-back nights, you might have assumed that key players like Evgeni Malkin returned to action. Failing that, maybe you’d ask if Sidney Crosby had been superhuman.
While Crosby was indeed fantastic during Saturday’s 7-4 win against the Wild (good enough to be one of the three stars on a busy day) and Sunday’s stunning 7-2 drubbing of the Jets, it wasn’t all him. Instead, it was a combination of a red-hot Crosby and a seemingly ragtag group of players coming together.
You can see the highlights of Sunday’s win in the video above, and check out Saturday’s score-fest against Minnesota here:
Pittsburgh’s games against the Jets seem to be all about subverting expectations. Earlier this season, Winnipeg won despite a ton of injuries to their defense; this time around, expectations were that Pittsburgh’s list of ailments would mean bad things, but instead the Pens won. In each case, the results were remarkably lopsided, too.
87 is on fire
Crosby’s strong play should not go unnoticed.
With two assists against Winnipeg, Crosby now has a three-game multi-point streak going, generating two goals and four assists for six points during that streak. The 32-year-old’s also scored at least one point during his first six games of 2019-20, collecting three goals and seven assists to total 10 points.
If the star center is slowing down with age, you have to really strain your eyes to see where he’s in heavy decline.
Not just Crosby
That said, 10 of those 14 goals didn’t involve Crosby points, so obviously it’s not just 87.
Sam Lafferty’s arguably had an even better weekend than Crosby. The 24-year-old is rapidly becoming more than a relative unknown who was a fourth-rounder (113th overall) from 2014. Lafferty scored two goals on Sunday after generating a three-point night (his first NHL goal, plus two assists) against the Wild on Saturday. So, yes, Lafferty generated five points to Crosby’s four on the weekend.
Managing five points in less than 27 minutes of total ice time is just kind of ridiculous, and ventures an argument that the Penguins should give Lafferty more opportunities to prove himself, particularly as injuries linger for more prominent players.
Zach Aston-Reese made an argument for player of the game on Sunday, though, generating a three-point night against the Jets (two goals, one assist).
It’s a testament to the Penguins’ knack for finding the occasional gems in the draft or in free agency, as for all we know, all of those injuries might open the door for someone to be a more regular contributor. Such a thing happened for Matt Murray, and to some extent, Jake Guentzel.
Speaking of finding ways to win, judging from this Natural Stat Trick heat map, you wonder if the Penguins might have scouted out a weak spot for Laurent Brossoit, attacked an especially weak spot of Winnipeg’s defense, or maybe it was just a coincidence that so many chances and goals came from the same general area?
One wouldn’t expect the lesser-known Penguins to stay so hot for too long, but little bursts like these can make a difference between missing or making the playoffs, or for a team with greater ambitions like Pittsburgh, maybe earning a round or two of home-ice advantage. Piling up points in games that look like losses on paper may also help the Penguins gain enough breathing room to give Crosby some rest down the line. As great as Crosby was in 2018-19 (with his underlying stats inspiring some to wonder if he deserved more Hart buzz), there were signs that he was wearing down for a Pittsburgh team that needed to battle to make the postseason. In an era of sports where teams are more interested in “load management,” the Penguins might want to work a little harder to earn that luxury for Crosby and others.
Either way, the Penguins are showing some moxy, so don’t count them out when they face the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday (a game you can watch on NBCSN at 7 p.m. ET).
Sometimes you come across things so silly, it’s honestly tough to shake them off. The Los Angeles Kings accomplished that recently, as they’ve announced that they will cover up a Taylor Swift banner for sold-out performances during Kings home games.
For all the talk of eyesores, don’t you think it’s weird that they’re forcing a blank space over the pop star’s already-goofy banner?
Before we ridicule the Kings too much, let’s let them finish. It seems that this is a response to fans’ general disdain, as the Los Angeles Times’ Arash Markazi reported.
“The connection to our fans is our highest priority and through our engagement they have made it clear that the banner shouldn’t be part of their Kings game experience,” Kings/AEG Sports executive Michael Altieri said. “We didn’t see an issue in covering it for our games and in fact see it as an opportunity to show our fans that we hear them.”
Because hockey fans are involved, this isn’t a purely aesthetic argument, as extremely silly superstitions also seem to be involved.
Yes, some Kings fans think that the team’s colossal plummet down the standings isn’t about a bunch of players hitting the aging curve beyond their wildest dreams; instead, it’s about Taylor Swift.
There’s just something about Swift that brings out the illogical and petty in people, from Kanye West to the Kings. If nothing else, this goofy update draws some attention away from the Kings’ evergreen gloating about Jonathan Quick, who might just be losing his starting job to Jack Campbell.
This situation actually brings up some other interesting details.
Before reading about this, I personally hadn’t realized that the Los Angeles Clippers cover up Los Angeles Lakers banners during their games at Staples Center, which is such a profound gesture of insecurity that I find it kind of charming. It would be like covering up a sibling’s trophy chest during a high school date, or something. But it’s a reminder that the Kings aren’t the only sports team being weird about banners — even in their own building.
Then again, considering Ye’s journey to the deep end after crossing T-Swizzle, I’m not sure if the Kings should really encourage such bad blood.
(Also: Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames need to get on this by aligning with Swift. Maybe bring 1989 throwbacks full circle? Perhaps the Flames could play a bunch of Swift songs, like a happy version of the Miami Dolphins passive aggressively playing Jay Z songs to mock Kenny Stills?)
Anyway, hopefully you enjoyed this extremely hockey story, and it begs the question: what other NHL team – pop star feuds would you like to see? Prediction: the New Jersey Devils will not take on Bruce Springsteen … or even Bon Jovi.
Legendary soccer goalkeeper Petr Cech traded in soccer cleats for ice skates this week after joining up with the Guildford Phoenix of the United Kingdom’s National Ice Hockey League.
The 37-year-old made his debut on Sunday, leading the Phoenix to a 3-2 win over the Swindon Wildcats after a shootout. Sporting a mask designed by the great Dave Gunnarsson which featured a tribute to fellow Czech Dominik Hasek and the logos of Arsenal and Chelsea, the two Premier League soccer teams he played for (and in Chelsea’s case, his current employer).
With the score tied at two, the Phoenix and Wildcats entered the shootout and Cech made two stops, including the final one of the game in front of a record crowd of 909.
For his part, Cech was named man of the match.
“I wanted to win, that was the main thing, and I’m glad we did,” Cech said afterward. “I was surprised that I wasn’t more nervous. I didn’t know what to expect so it was nice how quickly my body switched into matchday mode.”
Now, it’s back to work for Cech at Chelsea as the club’s technical and performance advisor until his next appearance in net for the Phoenix.